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Painkiller Overdose Deaths Have Tripled: Government Report

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Overdose deaths from prescription narcotics tripled from 2009-2010, compared with a decade earlier, according to a new government report. Almost half of Americans are taking one or more prescription medications, the report found. An estimated 10.5 percent are prescribed painkillers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found among people ages 15 and older, painkiller use led to 6.6 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2009-2010, compared with 1.9 deaths per 100,000 in 1999-2000.

According to the CDC, 17.7 percent of Americans take prescription medication for cardiovascular disease; 10.7 percent take cholesterol-lowering medication; 10.6 percent take antidepressants; and 9 percent take anti-acid reflux drugs, Time reports.

The report found a large jump in the percentage of Americans taking prescription medication, according to HealthDay. From 2007 to 2010, about 48 percent of people said they were taking a prescription drug, up from 39 percent from 1988 to 1994.

About 90 percent of adults ages 64 and older took prescription medication in the past month, while 25 percent of children did so. About 10 percent of Americans said they had taken five or more prescription drugs in the previous month.

The rising use of medications has unintended consequences, including prescription drug abuse and antibiotic resistance. “Isn’t that the case with all forms of medical technology?” said Julia Holmes, Chief of the Analytic Studies Branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “It results in great benefit to people who are ill and disabled, but there’s always the potential for inappropriate use.”

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